An awe-full story

16 July 2017

It came to me while in the shower this morning (a place where one is showered additionally with oxytocin and the resultant enhanced clarity of awareness). Life, of the human variety, is enhanced in both quality and quantity, by curiosity and the narrative which follows. It is curiosity in its many forms that incorporates purposeful seeking. To seek, is a continuum which extends all the way from a focused pursuit to a more passive narration of the flow of conscious awareness of cognitive and emotional associations. The result is a narrative which chronicles the passing kaleidoscope of conscious bytes - our imagination.

This process is reflected in the brain in a structure referred to as the hippocampus. Originating from the Greek ἱππόκαμπος or seahorse, the word is derived from a combination of hippos – horse and campos – sea monster. There are two hippocampi, left and right, situated deep in both cerebral hemispheres. They each form a reversed ‘C’ depicting the seahorse, facing forwards. The hippocampus is the seat of short-term memory and is connected to the entire cerebral cortex. In this way it records memory, stores it in the cortex and catalogues it for later recall. But here comes the rub – memory is stored in the context of narrative – you would have difficulty in retaining information that was not recorded in a narrative context. Additionally, this entire process is driven by a dopamine feed.

Dopamine is the stuff of engagement, gratification, achievement as well as curiosity. So let’s put that all together: We derive personal gratification from an active curiosity and the achievement of creating a narrative, the stuff of our imagination. Now if we take curiosity a step higher to awe, we are showered with oxytocin – the stuff of empathy, belief and a subjective sense of connection to something much bigger than ourselves.

But it doesn’t end there folks. Through the process of mirror-neuron activity, we resonate with the imagination of others. We lock hippocampi with the the writer or communicator and thereby experience the full octave of cognitive emotion. And in turn we secrete the same configuration of neuro-chemicals as the producer – we flow with the dopamine in a well-formed narrative where curiosity is sustained. And we also flow with the oxytocin when awe, empathy and connectivity is expressed.

Bearing in mind that raised levels of dopamine and oxytocin diminish inflammation and are immune-stimulating, we have the added bonus of enhanced physical wellness. And so without getting too dramatic it could be said that curiosity is life, while a life devoid of curiosity is a a pre-morbid state!

I invite you to share this story with me:

"He was someone that kept very much to himself, but always very pleasant. In fact I would go as far as saying that there was something very calming and inspiring in his demeanour. He would go about his daily activities in an unobtrusive way, politely greeting all who passed by him. I knew that there was something very special about him and this was to play itself out so dramatically one Saturday afternoon. I was feeling particularly down. Things were just not going my way. I was already beginning to question 'what's it all about'. I remember sitting in the park, alone on a bench. I suddenly became aware of someone standing next to me. I looked up and there he was, with that calm, understanding look in his eyes. He beckoned me to walk with him. There were no words spoken. I just went along and followed him. We walked to the far end of the park. There was a steep drop just beyond the edge. And there for the first time I noted some stairs cut into the rock which descended to a small ledge. We walked down the stairs …. And into pure magic! The sun was setting and standing on the ledge we were bathed in pure golden sunlight. He put his arm around my shoulder and smiled. I couldn’t help myself. The tears just welled up …….. "

Were you with me? Did you feel it? We just covered the full octave. I derived a great dopamine and an oxytocin ‘high’ from my original tweaked curiosity and the flow of imagination that followed. I wanted to share it with you, both for the acknowledgement of my creation as well as to inspire your curiosity and imagination to create your own piece of narrated magic.

I guess that’s why we write. We experience personal gratification in the ‘doing’ and in the recognition as well as in the inspiring of each other to contribute our unique imaginations and thereby enrich this space.

Archive

3 July 2017
Mushroom soup

2 June 2017
Relativity, relatives and other relationships

29 May 2017
Inflamed and smoked

25 May 2017
An Ode to my Mentor

10 May 2017
Counter-evolutionary

27 April 2017
Inspire

16 April 2017
Lost in an expert fog

12 April 2017
Don't be short-changed

30 March 2017
A brAIve New World

15 March 2017
The problem with Gus

12 March 2017
United in Energy

5 March 2017
Transcending emotions

25 February 2017
In the blink of an eye

25 February 2017
The real story about emotions

27 January 2017
Meditation Re-visited

21 January 2017
As a light to a flame

31 December 2016
Drowning in snake oil

24 December 2016
In the glow of an aura

19 December 2016
Mindfully yours

14 December 2016
Time to transcend the Flat Earth Society

4 December 2016
Prejudice and other violations

20 November 2016
Lighting up the Abyss

12 November 2016
Embrace the Zeitgeist and Transcend

9 November 2016
A Curious Life

8 October 2016
Perhaps we ought to read the stars?

3 October 2016
The Lethal Cocktail of Fear with an Existential Crisis

22 September 2016
The truth about truth

27 August 2016
Conscious Integration

21 August 2016
The Toxicity of the Social Media

3 August 2016
Time to Integrate

24 July 2016
I Believe ...

16 June 2016
Crime, punishment and the brain

4 June 2016
The Essence of Effective Leadership

22 May 2016
Engage with the Eloquence of Neuromodulation

15 May 2016
Peer Reviewed Publications: A Trust Issue

28 April 2016
A Cathartic Therapeutic Moment

11 March 2016
Gateway to Consciousness

16 December 2015
Profile of Hatred and Cruelty

9 November 2015
Drivers of Success and Effective Leadership

2 November 2015
A Two-Point Solution

20 October 2015
All Black Rugby: The Eloquence of Applied Neuroscience

8 October 2015
In Mitigation of Limiting Deprivation Determinants

20 September 2015
Lamenting our intellectual malaise

13 August 2015
Respectful Intervention

25 July 2015
The Creative Leadership Zone

16 May 2015
Coaching to Pleasure

6 May 2015
Glowing the Void - Thoughts under a May Full Moon

1 April 2015
Context and Integration

7 February 2015
Add some Awe and become Awesome

11 January 2015
Effective Intervention

3 January 2015
The re-emergence of the right hemisphere

26 November 2014
Where is consciousness?

11 May 2014
A Strong Determinism

15 February 2014
The Physiology of Mindfulness

16 August 2013
The Triple Wheel Combination Model of Value-based Leadership

1 June 2013
Authenticity and Leadership

13 January 2013
The Neurobiology of Empathy

29 November 2012
Neuroplasticity

8 June 2012
The brain as a deterministic blueprint

21 April 2012
That 'Aha' Moment

17 April 2011
Rewarding Value

28 December 2010
The Dangers of Cyber-space

27 November 2010
Enhancing Gratification

23 June 2010
Systemic Degeneration

14 June 2010
Meaning and Purpose

3 June 2010
Medical Challenges